By Andy Miller, Indiana Agriculture Director
Springtime for farmers is like New Year’s Eve for most Hoosiers. While most equate spring with relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, farmers are starting another new crop year. Each new “resolution” sets the tone for a successful and sustainable crop year.
Spring is the time to get to work after a long winter of planning. We prepare the fields to plant the seeds, and we talk with crop consultants and other specialists to determine the best strategy for maximizing yields and minimizing costs. But there is one more critical step I believe all farmers must have in place to ensure their farm is successful and sustainable: a conservation plan.
Farmers and the agriculture community have always cared deeply about the environment and have done so for generations. But more can be done. In a recent report, Indiana ranked sixth out of 31 states that contribute nutrients and sediment to the Mississippi River, with agriculture being a primary source.
But we know Indiana farmers are committed to continued improvement. I firmly believe that as more farmers learn about the conservation tools available to them, such as cover crops and conservation tillage, more will want to incorporate them into successful, sustainable on-farm practices.
Conservation is not only the right thing to do, but it also can provide financial benefits. For example, did you know reducing tillage passes over a field may save a farmer as much as $15 per acre? This savings doesn’t even factor in the U.S. Department of Agriculture program payments that may be available for reducing tillage.
During the last few months, farmers may have heard about the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s (ISDA) statewide initiative to reduce excess sediment and nutrients in our rivers and streams. ISDA, along with the State Soil Conservation Board, believes Indiana can make a positive impact on our waterways. And we believe farmers want to help. Therefore, the state has increased both financial investment and conservation programming for the Division of Soil Conservation.
Under the leadership of Governor Daniels and Lt. Governor Becky Skillman, ISDA and the State Soil Conservation Board invested $500,000 this year in Clean Water Indiana Grants. There is also a new, innovative partnership with Crop Consultant Advisors in specific watersheds to help farmers install conservation practices now, instead of later. Those are just two programs that help farmers protect their land and the state’s waterways for years to come.
Hoosier farmers are known for doing the right thing. It’s in their character. So I challenge our Indiana farmers and landowners—especially those along the Wabash River—to make a “spring resolution” during this year’s National Stewardship Week April 27 - May 4. Resolving to have successful, sustainable farms will be easy by working with a crop consultant, ISDA field staff member or local Soil and Water Conservation Office to learn more about the statewide programs available.
Andy Miller is Indiana’s first Agriculture Director. He was raised on a hog and crop farm in Northeastern Indiana, graduated from Purdue University with a degree in agricultural economics, and worked in the food industry before accepting a role in public service. Reprinted with permission from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.